Archive for Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Changes follow life’s transitions

January 16, 2008

Conventional wisdom used to have it that a child's character was set in stone by age seven: "Train up a child in the way he should go; in his adult years, he will not depart from it" or something to that effect.

In my field, however, we have come to know that there are six or seven transitional times in life when major life changes provide the opportunity to modify character.

Think of the personality like the surface of a lake: in the winter; frozen solid, can be depended upon, though rough, well formed. When a change comes about, like the lake in spring; slow and gradual thawing with ice heaves and rough surfaces; chaotic, even. It is in this phase the Chinese proverb of crises being opportunity holds true. Finally the change abides, the lake is completely thawed and is flowing water again. Here one appreciates that change has come and will need to be taken advantage of before the lake freezes again.

Once the lake is frozen, or the personality set again for a while, there is no motivation for change; there is comfort in the familiar - even if the water in the lake is polluted; it is predictable, hence comfortable. It is quite difficult until the next big thaw comes to make any changes or take advantage of the chaos.

I thought about this concept of personality development recently in looking at wedding pictures of my nephew, my dad's only namesake. There is one particular picture of him looking out over the ocean and she embraces him from behind, head resting on his shoulder, outward looking as he casts his face to the future.

He did not always cast his face to the future; his face was everywhere it wasn't supposed to be, doing everything he shouldn't be doing. He was, it is fair to say, a wild child. He is the brother to five sisters; once took it upon himself to shear the long locks of them all.

The blessing is he married a hair stylist; no more head shaving for him.

No more a lot of things for him; he has grown up; grown into himself; survived those passages in which his boat might have sunk in the shifting ice flows. He has made it through those passages, those transitions - primarily because with each change, each transition, he was encircled with the constancy of family, even when they didn't know what to do with him.

There will be other challenges, other transitions; other springs with thawing ice flows. It will be the opportunity for continued change and adaptation. He will make it through by embracing the change, looking outward toward the future; and honoring the embrace of the one who looks outward with him. Life, it turns out, is full of second chances.

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